Surry ace sees him lead the way at St Francis Links

Steve Surry of England aced the seventh hole at St Francis Links on Thursday on his way to a nine-under-par 63 and the first-round lead of the Sunshine Tour’s PGA Championship.

With five birdies as well as the hole-in-one in his opening nine, Surry reached the turn in seven-under-par 29. With two more shots picked up on a faultless homeward nine, the Englishman had a two-stroke lead over Jayden Schaper and Ruan Conradie, both of whom dropped two shots during their opening rounds of seven-under-par 65.

“It was certainly one of my better days on the course. It’s always nice to have a hole-in-one during a round, and even more so when it can actually mean something at the end of the day,” said Surry after the ninth hole-in-one of his career and his third in a tournament.

“I had about 191 yards into the wind and took a four-iron off the tee. I was actually trying to play right of the flag and ended up pulling the shot a bit. I saw it bounce but didn’t see it finish. I was playing with Keith Horne and he said he thought it went in, but we looked at the scorer on the side of the green and he was doing nothing. It turns out he didn’t see it either, but when we got to the green, there my ball was in the hole.”

Another shot back, Jaco Ahlers, Alex Haindl, Luca Filippi and Michael Hollick held a share of fourth on six-under, while, on five-under, Ulrich van den Berg, James Kamte and Tristen Strydom held a share of eighth to round out the top 10.

Surry, who has two top-10 finishes to his name in the PGA Championship – in 2013 at Country Clun Johannesburg and in 2019 at Eye of Africa – is in search of his second win on the Sunshine Tour after he won his maiden title in 2019 at Pinnacle Point in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final that year. He has five runner-up finishes to his credit too, and his best recent result was a share of third just up the Eastern Cape coast at Humewood in the Vodacom Origins of Golf event in September.

“I’ve been coming to play on the Sunshine Tour for about eight years now and I love it here,” said Surry. “It’s like a second home for me now. After the SA Open, the SA PGA Championship is one of the biggest up there in terms of history. It’d be a great one to try and win.”

He will have to deal with the young Schaper who is rounding nicely into form ahead of the big end-of-year tournaments on the Sunshine Tour. Schaper started out really hot, and four birdies in a row in the middle of his opening nine combined with birdies on one and nine saw him turn in 30. Keeping the pedal to the metal on the homeward nine was a touch tougher, and he bogeyed both the par-fives to spoil his three birdies.

Further down in the field is one of just five three-time champions in the tournament, Jaco van Zyl. He was on one-under-par 71.

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